The biggest festival of democracy, the ‘election’, is going to take place in Bihar soon. Right now, the entire world is grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, and Bihar being an underdeveloped state, is facing its heat rather badly. Apart from this, Bihar is also struggling with floods and dengue outbreak. In such a situation, does the government care what people of Bihar really want? Should there be an election? And if yes, then who should win this election?
The ‘prominent’ faces in Bihar are, once again, the same. Just like last year, no new face has emerged to have a significant impact on the election. BJP still has no Chief Minister candidate of its own and is dependent on a coalition with Nitish Kumar.
If we look at Bihar’s politics closely, we find that RJD has never lost its base; its core vote bank. It’s just that since the 2005 election, only a party that contests election under a coalition comes into power. In 2005, when people were looking for a change, Nitish Kumar (JDU) emerged as an option and contested election with BJP.
However, in that election, too, RJD managed to secure the highest individual vote share at 23.45%. Once Nitish Kumar came into power, he worked for the people in his first term, so in 2010 elections, RJD’s vote share declined to 18.84% (which is not too bad, though RJD lost this election because of the coalition).
In 2015 election, Nitish Kumar, who previously appeared as an alternative to Lalu Prasad Yadav, was quick to join hands with Tejasvi Yadav to fulfil his national political ambitions. Hence, in 2015, RJD+JDU came to power. RJD’s vote share was 18.4% with 80 seats (+38 from 2010 election), while JDU’s seats were reduced to 71 (-44 from the previous election).
BJP’s vote share in 2015 was the highest at 24.4%. So basically, the RJD has not lost its core voters, it’s just that the coalition is more likely to win in Bihar elections. Though later on Nitish Kumar joined NDA again and left the RJD alliance to save his political career in Narendra Modi’s tenure; Nitish, who once left NDA because of Narendra Modi! During all these times, the worst performer has been BJP. It doesn’t want Nitish Kumar to be the CM face, but it has also failed in bringing a strong contender.
Nitish Kumar is dependent on the coalition because of the aforesaid political equations, and his performance has also deteriorated. Still, he is the only option for NDA, and it seems that Nitish will not join RJD as NDA is in the centre, and it will be a better move for him.
Now, if we look at young faces, then Bihar has two: Chirag Paswan and Tejasvi Yadav. Chirag has a good reputation, but his party is small, and he can’t be the CM face at least for now. Tejasvi Yadav, on the other hand, is often criticized just because he is Lalu Yadav’s son, and Lalu Yadav was convicted in a scam. During Lalu Yadav’s tenure, Bihar’s condition was pathetic.
Tejasvi Yadav is being judged for his father’s corruption, and not as a separate individual. People who say that he is there because of his father should appreciate the fact that he will remain there only if people let him win; it’s democracy. People of Bihar do not have many options. Therefore, if we want to change, perhaps we need to look elsewhere.
The crime graph has only gone up in the state with years, and development is nowhere to be found. Most Biharis appreciate Nitish Kumar for the work he’s done in his first term, but not after that. When Kumar came into power, the image of Bihar improved; it saw development, but it was short-lived. Bihar has seen development only for 2-3 years in the last 30 years.
The real image of Bihar has come out with the COVID-19 pandemic and annual floods occurring simultaneously. The image of migrants walking back home after lockdown depicted the reality of millions in Bihar. And now, the migrants who were promised jobs in Bihar have to go back to the big cities for work again. We all know there are no employment opportunities in Bihar—no industry, nothing.
To understand the public’s mood, I talked to a few people from Bihar. Here’s what they said:
1. Mr Ashwini Kirti, a Coronavirus survivor, who couldn’t get admitted in a hospital in Patna because of the poor medical facilities, despite being positive for around 32 days said, “This time, the alliance of RJD-Congress should win. For 15 years, the present government has ruled, but the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the reality of Bihar. Our public health infrastructure is in shambles.”
2. Mrs Sabita Kumari, a housewife, said, “There shouldn’t be an election at this time; the date should be postponed until this pandemic is over. Right now, all parties are doing pity politics, so one might as well go for NOTA.”
3. Mr Prateek Singh Ray, a working professional, said, “In the upcoming election in Bihar, people would like to see BJP, LJP coming into power, along with few other regional parties. Mismanagement and high-headedness of Nitish Kumar are for everyone to see—his ego and attitude didn’t let the coalition parties function properly. He wanted a one-man show, and this has been extremely detrimental to the growth of Bihar.”
4. Mr Akash Anand, a PhD student, said that “The first term of Nitish-led government was good, but if we look at the last 10 years, Nitish Kumar is trying to channelise his image of “Sushasan babu” without doing anything substantial. If only we see it as a pragmatic person and compare the manifesto with actual ‘development’, we see the truth. The condition of niyojit teachers in the state is pretty bad. Either Chirag or Tejasvi, who are vocal about these shortcomings, should take charge.”
5. Mr Siddharth Tripahy, an Advocate, said, “I want to see a fresh face lead Bihar. RJD’s record is bad, and their current leadership is useless, and other parties are nonexistent. So the only option is NDA-led by Nitish Kumar; I will prefer the lesser devil.”
6. Mr Anshu Mahendra Singh, a social activist, said, “I don’t want Bihar to hold election right now. The situation is very poor due to the flood and pandemic, but if the election happens, I would like to see a fresh leader, who can take Bihar to new heights.”
7. Mrs Puja, a teacher, said that “The medical facilities in the state are pathetic, roads are in poor condition too. Bihar lags in almost every parameter, no matter which party is in power. Whoever forms the government next must think about development for real and learn a lesson from this pandemic situation in Bihar.
In the current scenario, if NEET-JEE exam takes place, then the state government should arrange means of transport for students—as reaching exam centres will be difficult for many due to floods. They must also ensure that exams are conducted with proper safety measures.
I want to see good governance, whether its NDA or RJD. They should think about the people here who don’t get good opportunities and have to leave their home. They deserve the opportunity to work here and contribute to the state’s welfare. Why should they go out and face discrimination?“
8. Mrs Mridula Sinha, former Principal of HRDT School, said, “I am looking for a change, but the truth is, no one can replace Nitish Kumar in the current scenario.”
9. Mr Vivek Suryavanshi, a political activist, said, “Elections must take place, but before that, it should be ensured that people affected by the flood must get homes and food. Bihar deserves a young leader who can usher in the much-needed change.”
10. Mr Shariq, an auto driver, said that “We faced a lot of difficulty due to the lockdown, there was no support from the government, so will vote for change.”
11. Mr Giri, a Bihar government official, said that “This is not the right time for the election, but whenever the election takes place, I wish to see a new CM’s face in Bihar, but neither Nitish nor Tejasvi Yadav will fit the bill for me.”
12. Mrs Maya Yadav, a migrant worker who is now working as domestic help in Bihar, said, “There was no proper support from neither central government nor our state government, we were promised a job, but we didn’t get any, and now, we are going back to big cities again to find work. Only a few got some nominal money from the state government. This time, we will vote for a change.”
13. Mr Ritesh, a businessman, said that “Despite the increase in crimes, I still feel safer under the current Nitish government and will vote for NDA as there aren’t any other able faces in other parties.”
14. Mr Sujit Paswan, a farmer, criticised the present government and said, “Whosoever forms the government only comes to us at the time of election or for a photo session—no one actually cares for us. We are hopeless.”
15. Dr Shrivastava from Bihar said that “Whether it’s RJD or NDA, the condition of the state is poor. It’s challenging to work in Bihar; there are no proper facilities during this pandemic; lack of appropriate equipment, doctors, and infrastructure is a significant issue. After seeing the condition of patients, we also feel bad, but there is no facility, and if one goes to a private clinic, then there is a loot there.
The government is not doing anything, so a new system is needed where the government can work for people. The current one is full of corruption; favouritism is there, and hand-picked officers are given all the major posts every time—so that loot can be smooth.
Even during the pandemic, the same officers were assigned the major roles. People from BJP and JDU are busy commenting on Lalu Yadav’s family and comparing the tenure of RJD with NDA, but will this solve the problem? Did the people elect them to do this? I feel bad that I voted for NDA after seeing the pathetic condition of Bihar during COVID time. This government is a total failure. Bihar needs a new, educated leader who understands the meaning of development.”
As we can make out from the above statement, people are divided, and it is going to be a close fight. Still, most people want to change—even the BJP supporters wish to see a new face. In such condition, Tejasvi Yadav is likely to have the edge over Nitish Kumar. Many factors will come into play as people go out to vote this time.
How the Nitish-led government has fared in this pandemic test will also play a role in people’s decision. The lack of jobs, the plight of migrant workers, poor public health infrastructure, broken education system, floods—people are struggling due to many issues right now, and this might play a significant role in how elections turn out this time. Will Bihar choose Nitish as “Paristhitiyo ke CM”? Only time will tell.